The Brooks Distance has proven itself to be as comfortable as it is affordable. The previous version, with its ill-designed stitching, scratched us like a jilted house cat. This most recent version is a significant step up. Our favorite attribute, the soft cotton esq feeling fabric, remains, and rounds out the high level of comfort. While the Distance doesn't breathe quite as well as some of the other airy shirts we tested, it does have its place when a touch of extra warmth is wanted when summer starts to transition into fall.
The Brooks Distance provided excellent comfort for all kinds of aerobic activity, running included.
While comfort can be subjective and a bit elusive to rate, some attributes are universal. We analyze the fit relative to other shirts, fabric feel, how the seams are sewn, and where they are located to make our judgment. Past versions of the Distance were a bit too athletic in the fit, and the seams were sewn with a chunky, abrasive pattern. This newest redesign fixed most of those issues. The size large fits our 5'11" 175 pound gear tester perfectly, riding the fine line between having too much fabric and flapping like a sail or having too little fabric and riding up over our love handles like Will Ferrell's sweater when he's playing the cowbell.
The gussetted panels down the sides placed seams in less irritating areas. This, plus the ultra soft material, made for a heckin comfortable shirt.
What sets the Distance apart from the rest of the field is the cotton-esq feel of the fabric. The material is significantly tighter and less breathable but offers a bit more warmth as a trade-off. When we first put this shirt on, we would have sworn there was at least some cotton in the blend due to how soft it feels.
This shirt is so comfortable that we found ourselves wearing it around the house just because it was the most comfortable shirt in our closet. Yes, when wearing a running pack, there was still a bit of abrasion with the seams; however, this shirt is a significant step up from the previous version. While there are some drawbacks to this ultra-soft material such as water retention and a slower drying speed, the high level of comfort is notable.
Gussetted shoulder straps migrated seams from irritating pressure points. This is a great design.
The gusseted shoulder panels offset the seams, so they aren't sitting right across your shoulder bones. This is a massive boost for comfort, especially when wearing a running pack or backpack.
Most of the shirts we tested had visible perforations in the fabric or at least some mesh panels in key spots to allow for greater breathability and venting. The Distance, however, forewent mesh panels and opted for a tightly woven polyester-spandex fabric blend.
This tightly woven fabric was moderately breathable but nowhere close to shirts like the New Balance Mesh Ice. While the Distance isn't the most breathable in the bunch, the decrease in breathability is a trade-off for a slight boost in warmth, especially for uses other than running. This fabric is excellent for hiking and climbing.
The tightly woven polyester was one of the heavier fabrics we tested. This made it slightly less breathable than most but significantly more comfortable than many mesh shirts.
Weighing in at 4.5 ounces, this shirt was roughly in the middle of the spectrum when it came to weight. It outperformed this ranking when accounting for drying time, as it scored up there near the top with the Arc'teryx Motus Crew for best drying time. With more fabric, it should have been capable of holding more water trapped between its fibers, thereby slowing down the drying speed, but this proved not to be the case.
Even before the most recent updates with this shirt, it performed well in almost any situation it came across. The increase in comfort, slightly more relaxed fit, and soft fabric make the Distance an excellent choice for hiking, climbing, layering, and even casual wear.
We used this shirt on our regular bike commute and even during an ascent of the Petit Grepon in Rocky Mountain National Park. The omission of vulnerable mesh fabrics added a level of durability that we didn't expect. Other shirts tested this year were so lightweight their versatility scores took a hit.
The Brooks Distance was an excellent running shirt; it's also capable of getting you to the farmers' market without being entirely drenched in sweat.
Even just hanging out in this shirt is a pleasure. The casual design and soft fabric make picnics and biking to the shops fun as you won't look too sporty. Many of the shirts tested didn't make for good casual wear as they have an obvious activewear look.
The Brooks Distance was ultra comfortable while out on the trails but equally comfortable while cruising the shops.
To put it lightly, the Distance is lacking in features. The left shoulder holds the only reflective marking, and the only noticeable standout feature is the small sweatband on the back of the neck. While it was one of the lower scorers in the features metric, that might not be a negative if you intend to use this shirt for several uses. The real feature of this shirt is its clean form, with nothing to upset your skin when layers are added on top.
While the Distance lacks in features, it does have the basics, and the overall performance of this shirt far outweighs this metric. Yes, we wish there was a bit more reflective badging for safety, but it isn't a dealbreaker.
The Brooks Distance was a great crag companion. It's comfortable with a backpack on top, dries quickly, and offers unrestricted movement while climbing.
With the significant comfort updates and affordable price, the Distance is good value. The bottom line is that we would have no hesitation in recommending this shirt to a friend at the retail price. If you're looking for a quick-drying and comfortable running layer that can be used for any outdoor pursuits, give the Distance a long hard look.
The Brooks Distance is an affordable, quick-drying, and fairly versatile running shirt. The recent boost in comfort has helped this shirt become one of our tester's personal favorites for running and climbing. Our previous issues with abrasive stitching and ill-designed panel layout have been resolved. The now soft stitching combined with the ultra-comfortable fabric makes this a great shirt by any standards.